While I love vocabulary games for Spanish class, the best way to learn “vocabulary” is in context. I use to give long lists of isolated words, until I switched to proficiency-based teaching and threw out my textbook. I realized my students were memorizing the words to pass a quiz, and then forgetting them. Our students really need to see whole language, in context, in stories, songs or texts.
That said, I still love games! They’re great brain breaks, team building, getting everyone moving, and introducing words. Just make sure that these vocabulary games for Spanish class are supplementing LOTS of language in context. Whenever possible, give the language for these games in chunks, rather than just isolated words.
1. Eyes Closed
Have all the students stand up and close their eyes. Call out the terms and students act them out. Incorrect actions get the students out, who then sit down and help you catch other students until only one student is left and wins the game.
2. Charades / Pictionary
Play charades and pictionary combined, to give the students more choice. For each term, whoever is up front has the option to act it out or draw it on the board. You can also get everyone more involved by playing reverse charades. Give the class whiteboards, and the student who is “it” guesses while his/her entire team mimes or draws the term.
Write the phrases on slip of paper. Students sit in a circle. Divide the class into 2 or more teams by counting 1-2. For each team’s turn, set a time (1-2 minutes).
1st round (actions): Team 1 begins as a player draws a slip. That student acts out the phrase. When the team guesses correctly, the next player on Team 1 draws another slip and the play continues until the time is up. The timer is set again for the other team, and turns continue until all the slips are gone. Count the slips and give those points to their teams.
2nd round (verbal clues): This round is the same as the first, except that the students must use clues in Spanish. If the slip says va a la casa, for example, the students could say cuatro palabras, es como camina, corre o advanca, donde vivo, etc. This will be very difficult for beginners, so you may want to let students make word webs for the phrases before playing, to brainstorm and think of related words and synonyms. This is great practice for circumlocution.
3rd round (one-word clues): This round is the same as the second, except that the students must only use one word. If the phrase is va a la casa, the student could say vivo, and the team has to guess the phrase from this one clue.
*In the original game, the actions are for the third round and that’s supposed to be the hardest round. For students learning another language, that is probably the easiest, so I made it first.
Bingo is great because it is flexible. You can give the students blank games, and have them illustrate the terms. Then, call out the terms in the target language and no English gets used. I have an entire post on Getting More Mileage Out of Bingo!
5. Go Fish
Shuffle the picture and/or word cards and deal 5-6 cards per player. Players set any pairs down as their first matches. Set the rest in the middle as the “Go Fish/Ve a Pescar” pile. The students take turns asking one another for specific cards. If one has a picture of a pencil, she asks another student in the TL, “Do you have the pencil?” The student gives the card to her or says, “No, I don’t. Go fish!” She must then draw a card from the pile in the middle. When a student gets a match, he or she gets to go again. Whoever has the most matches at the end of the game wins.
**The game may be played with word/image cards. For a challenge, play only with the images.
My free Food Vocabulary Cards in Spanish are great for this one!
6. Slap-it/ Flyswatter
Divide the class into groups of 4-5. Pass out only picture cards to each group. Lay the picture cards face up, in the middle of the group. Call out the terms. The first student to touch the corresponding image keeps the card. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins.
Flyswatter is similar, except that two students come up to the front and hit pictures projected onto the board with (clean) flyswatters. My La casa Slideshare would work with this.
7. Red Light, Green Light
Line up the students on one side of the space. Whoever is “it” calls out a specific action to perform, like dance. Everyone advances, dancing. When Red light! (in the TL) is called, everyone freezes and anyone who moves is sent back. Often I will stand at the front and yell out what action to do (so I can control what they’re practicing) and the student who is “it” just concentrates on saying red light and catching unlucky moving friends.
8. Simon Says
Call out the phrases while acting them out. Here and there, do the wrong action. If anyone follows your incorrect action instead of listening to the word, that student is out. Last student in the game in wins!
9. Around the World / Sparkle
This can be played in a circle or with everyone in their seats. Choose one student. He/she stands up next to the student to the right. Call out a word. The first student to give the meaning advances, and the other stays in that seat. The first students to advance all the way around the room and return to his/her original seat wins.
10. Teléfono escrito
1. Everyone will start with a piece of paper. At the top, they should sketch a scene from the story. They then leave a bit of space, and below describe the scene. Then, they fold the paper so that only the description is showing. Everyone passes the papers to the right.
2. Now everyone reads the description and does their best to sketch what they read. Then, they fold the paper so that only the drawing is showing. Everyone passes to the right again.
3. Only the latest drawing is visible, so everyone looks at it and write a few sentences describing the drawing. Then, they fold the paper so that only the description is showing, and pass to the right again.
You can do this however many rounds you choose. Just be sure to end on a drawing, because the funniest part of the game is comparing the progression of the first drawing to the last! Beginners can simply write words they know. Intermediate learners can write sentences.
What vocabulary games for Spanish class do you love? If you’re looking for more ideas, check out 10 Interactive End-of-the-Year Games, 10 Icebreakers for the Spanish Classroom, or Brain Breaks for the Spanish Classroom!
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